This week we want to talk about how to build the 5 systems every Digital Writer needs to make great writing inevitable.
The best writers put on their engineering hat, and create systems that:
- Crush creative friction
- Make prolific output inevitable
- Build momentum with everything they write
Unfortunately, most writers rely on their willpower instead of a system. They saddle up to the kitchen table for a morning arm wrestling match with the blank page. And after 30 minutes of an intense struggle and a little navel gazing, the match ends–90% in favor of the blank page.
Prolific writers don’t wake up every day with their hat on backwards ready for a challenge.
Prolific writers fall out of bed and right into a repeatable system that unlocks 10X the output.
So, what is a writing system?
A writing system is a process that writers use to convert their time, energy and specific knowledge into written content that accomplishes a goal.
Every writer has a different goal, but the inputs and outputs are the same. As a writer you input raw ideas and output a tweet, an Atomic Essay, a LinkedIn Post, etc. Reaching (or failing to reach) your goal depends on the system’s reliability.
Below we break down the core steps and tools to help you get the job done.
Grab your hard hat. Let’s get building!
Step 1: Create Your Endless Idea Generation System
The single biggest problem beginning writers face is not knowing what to write about.
To write you need ideas.
And the easiest way to get ideas is with an idea generation system. In Ship 30, we use the Endless Idea Generator to create a ton of raw materials for writing in just 3 steps.
- Discover the topics you *want* to write about
- Get *specific* with those topics so readers will trust you
- Come up with *engaging* ideas about each of those topics
If you want to generate 100+ ideas in a half hour or less, check out the full deep dive here. Bookmark this page and come back to it anytime your “idea well” is feeling dry. But trust us, once you start using this process, you are going to have more ideas than you know what to do with.
And with all these ideas coming at you, setting up a system to capture them is crucial.
You need a place to capture everything.
- A notes folder on your phone
- A whiteboard you keep in the shower
- A physical journal you keep on your desk
- A string of DMs you send to yourself on Twitter
The trick is to periodically review all the places you’ve captured your ideas and then centralize them into one referenceable list that you can manage. From that list you can then prioritize, organize, and refine your writing until it’s time to publish.
We recommend using the drafts feature in Typeshare to keep all your ideas together..
Step 2: Create Your Headline Hook System
All those ideas won’t do you any good if people don’t read your stuff.
To earn attention, you need a compelling headline hook system.
The secret to writing a great headline is to create one that will stop your reader in their tracks, get them to pause, and force them to think: “I need to read this.” But a headline is not enough, you have to hook the reader with your first sentence. If you put these two together, you’ll be cooking with gas.
Writing a headline hook is a simple 3 step process:
- Assemble the headline by answering: how many, who, what, and why in the headline.
- Increase the voltage of each headline element by adding specificity and answering: what kind.
- Write a one-sentence opener that pulls your reader into the piece using one of six proven formats.
Just about every writer will struggle with getting headlines written throughout their journey.
And what separates the most prolific writers from the rest is the ability to fall back on headline formulas when nothing is clicking mentally. We recommend creating a personal swipe file for those days you find yourself on the struggle bus.
Here are 25 example headline templates you can use to seed your swipe file.
These headline ideas are some of the best ways to captivate a reader and hook them into what you have to say - whether it's in a blog post, an email, a press release, you name it.
Step 3: Create Your Effortless Formatting System
The difference between average writing and great writing comes down to style.
If you want to upgrade your engagement, format your writing for readability and skimmability.
While what you write matters, how you place it on the page matters even more. The visual aspect of your writing on the page changes the way readers consume and read your work. And the way your words look on the page can determine whether your writing gets read at all!
In our formatting deep dive we go into the specifics on how to do this, but here are the steps at a glance.
- Start every section with a single-sentence opener.
- Turn main points into headers and long paragraphs into lists.
- Use content mirroring by creating repeating patterns on the page.
The key to formatting is to always think about reducing friction for the reader.
You should always be asking yourself, "How can I make this easier for the reader?" Not how can I make this look cool. Your North Star should be what's easiest and most enjoyable for the reader.
Inside Typeshare, we make formatting dead-simple.
In the editor all you have to do is hit the “/” key. Hitting that command pops up a quick menu that allows you to create a mix of all formats to get you started.
You can format how you want your entire piece to look before you fill in any of the details!
Step 4: Create Your Publishing Cadence System
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
Our version: make it easy on yourself and create a repeatable publishing system.
As a writer you want to write. Which means you need to dedicate as much time as possible in that direction. Creating a publishing cadence system is a way for you to put your publishing on auto-pilot so you have more time to write and create new ideas!
Here are the steps:
- Create a calendar and break it up into dayparts.
- Make a list of topics or assets you plan to write about.
- Schedule everything you want to share on your topic in advance.
If you want to learn more about our content strategy, including what we post when and why, check out this detailed look at how we are using a publishing cadence system to grow our email list.
Step 5: Create Your Success Measurement System
Writing is a mix of art and science.
Taking a data-driven scientific approach is how you experiment and grow with compounding advantage.
When you’re just starting out, it can be hard to know which topics are worth writing about and which ones aren’t. But once you start creating content regularly and building your library of work, it’s easier to spot trends that will help you decide what to write next.
The digital writer journey is about taking small steps, listening, and responding. These are the 3 steps you need to start measuring what you learn:
- Make noise and listen for signal
- Double-down on the most promising data points
- Turn breakout data points into dozens of related content ideas (on repeat)
Inside the Ship 30 Captain’s Table, we walked through how to mine your twitter analytics and generated dozens of new viral-worthy ideas in 15 minutes.
You can follow all along and use the same steps that we covered in this post on how to create viral content.
That’s all for today!
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this Deep Dive. If you walk away with nothing else, you need to remember that the biggest "little-known secret" in the creator economy is:
The best writing is not a result. It's a byproduct.
Build the writing system that makes great writing inevitable.
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